Sunday, October 29, 2006

I've kept silent for too long regarding my thoughts about Congressman Mark Foley. I'm normally eager to write about items in the news, but I thought this situation demanded at least a few weeks to reflect and make sure I didn't say anything that could come back to haunt me in the event I use the leadership experience I've gained at the law firm to move into politics and make a run for office later in life. Certainly the time I've spent convincing law students that this firm is the right choice would serve as terrific practice for convincing voters that I'm the right candidate, or convincing a country that this is the right war, regardless of the truth of either of those statements. And there'd be none of those two-week vacations at the ranch with President Anonymous Lawyer. The government would run more efficiently than ever before with the hours extended by a handful on each end of the day, and all vacation time completely eliminated. I'd also eliminate the Department of Education, since anyone who's bright enough to succeed in this world should be self-motivated enough to teach himself everything he needs to know.

But on to the subject I intended to write about. Mark Foley. People say some terrible things about law firms. They write some awful things about how we treat our paralegals, our support staff, our associates. They complain about the hours, and the make-work. About the stress, and the lack of ownership. We're accused of lots of terrible things. But we're never accused of *that* terrible thing. Well, except for my colleague at Cravath, who I guess was accused of exactly that terrible thing. But he's an exception. As far as the rest of us, or at least a strong majority of us, we may do some bad things, but we don't do *that*. Even if any of us wanted to, it would be difficult. With the hours people spend here, they don't really get enough sleep to look their best, or enough exercise to stay in shape. There's nothing appealing about a puffy-eyed, pale, soft-in-the-middle, tired young intern. So even if we were tempted, why bother? It's not worth it.

Before I wrote this post, I wanted to make sure I wasn't speaking inaccurately. So I went into the computer system and harvested all of the instant message conversations over the past three years at the firm. I had a few of my associates comb through them for anything questionable. I thought I'd reproduce a few of the exchanges the associates found:

LuvTax59: what r u wearing?
179LSAT: blue shirt, khaki pants
LuvTax59: me 2
179LSAT: yah, everyone is
LuvTax59: i have the latest tax code in my office. want it?
179LSAT: no thanx, it's online
LuvTax59: ok, no problem


1944SecAct: wish u were here
LawStud1989: why?
1944SecAct: i need to fax something and my secretary went home
LawStud1989: do u need help with the fax?
1944SecAct: i do, it is v. confusing
LawStud1989: ok, i will come by l8r
1944SecAct: what r u wearing?
LawStud1989: blue shirt, khaki pants


ILikeBoies: how long is it?
YoungScaliaFan: u already know
ILikeBoies: tell me again
YoungScaliaFan: why?
ILikeBoies: i just want to hear you say it again
YoungScaliaFan: it's really long
ILikeBoies: how long?
YoungScaliaFan: so long
ILikeBoies: give me a number
YoungScaliaFan: guess
ILikeBoies: 9 and a half
YoungScaliaFan: no, longer
ILikeBoies: longer?
YoungScaliaFan: much longer
ILikeBoies: how long?
YoungScaliaFan: the brief is 36 pages -- i can send it to you as a pdf
ILikeBoies: ok, that would be great. i'll go through it and send you back any changes i have. hopefully we can get it off by 5.
YoungScaliaFan: yeah, we can definitely get it off
ILikeBoies: i hope so

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I'm still getting over my disappointment. Yesterday was National Boss Day and no one did a thing for me. I find most holidays -- Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving -- pretty meaningless, but I thought at least I'd get a card. I went to Hallmark's web site and entered my e-mail address to make sure there wasn't an e-card waiting for me. I thought the notification might have gotten caught by my spam filter, which is set to reject any e-mails containing the words "love," "friend," "vacation," or "I need to leave early." Unfortunately, no such luck. I did, however, find a whole page devoted to National Boss Day, and it only added to my disappointment.

"National Boss Day offers employees an opportunity to recognize those in supervisory positions. Popular ways to say “thanks” include cards, a department lunch, a “goodie” break, flowers or gifts. Hallmark offers 47 Boss’s Day cards. Many express appreciation for the ways bosses manage people, respect for their handling tough workloads, and gratitude for the coaching they provide."

My slaves and underlings ought to appreciate the efforts I put in for them. The way I manage them. I manage every hour of every day for most of them. Surely that should be worth at least a "goodie" break.

"National Boss Day began in 1958 when Patricia Bays Haroski, then an employee at State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Ill., registered the holiday with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Ms. Haroski wanted to designate a day to show her appreciation for her boss and others in that role. She also hoped to improve the relationship between employees and supervisors. She believed young employees often do not realize the challenges managers face."

Ms. Haroski is right. Young employees don't realize how hard it is to be in charge. I long for the days when I was just a young associate, with only the pressure to bill three thousand hours a year. I didn't have to worry about finding clients, finding recruits, keeping people motivated and happy, figuring out how to get the best out of my associates, paralegals, and the devoted support staff.

Okay, that probably went too far and ruined the joke. What kind of garbage holiday is National Boss Day? It's like Secretary's Day, Veterans Day, and Mother's Day. These aren't real holidays. These are fake occasions invented by the greeting card industry to manipulate idiots into buying cards and sending flowers. I don't understand our culture's obsession with flowers. Flowers die. Why do people want to put something on their desk that's going to die in a matter of days? If they want to watch something die, they should look deep inside themselves and notice their withering hearts and souls. Those are dead enough, why does anyone need flowers too? I went online once to buy my wife some roses. Getting flowers delivered is a ripoff. I ended up getting her a can of Raid instead. We'd been having problems with ants in the garden, and she kept forgetting to do anything about it. It was cheaper, and at least it did something useful.

If anyone had acknowledged National Boss Day to my face I would have given them some extra work to do. Anyone who has time to think about holidays like National Boss Day, New Year's Eve, or Yom Kippur clearly isn't busy enough. And anyone who expects to be able to take time out of their day to celebrate these things is crazy. Celebrations are for weddings and funerals, and maybe one birthday every four years. Everything else is excessive. Unless it's a recruiting-related celebration, in which case it's a necessary evil.

Recruiting season is rapidly coming to a close. The last few schools have their callback interviews in the next couple of weeks. I have three Harvard students flying in next week for callbacks, which is a handful fewer than usual. So I decided to add a bonus day of interviews for them and see if I can get a few more to come out. I'll be up at Harvard this Thursday night. It's a recruiting mission. I'm going to wander around campus looking for diligent students, studying quietly, perhaps checking footnotes or doing some other mindless task we know will help them fit in perfectly in our environment. I'll go up to them and slip them a business card, tell them to call me if they're interested. We'll do a quick first-round interview, and if any of them impress me, I'll hand them a voucher for a plane ticket to come down and see us next week. It's a new recruiting program. Catching them off guard. Hoping they don't realize where I'm from or what I'm doing or what I want from them. I hear the U.S. Army is recruiting in a similar way.

National Boss Day. Ha. I should have baked a cake for the chairman of the firm, to thank him for creating an atmosphere of doubt and uncertainty regarding whether I'm ever going to be named to the executive committee. I'd have filled the cake with poison. I think my secretary has some in her desk, just in case the yelling gets too loud one of these days.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I haven't been able to post for the past two weeks because I was brutally attacked by one of my associates and am only now regaining the use of my hands. The details of the attack are too graphic to share, but it should suffice to say that I will no longer be keeping in my office any of the crystal trinkets my clients have given me over the years in recognition of the firm's service. I have also installed protective covers on the unused electrical outlets in the room, and my secretary will be doing all of my stapling for the foreseeable future. Obviously the perpetrators have been dealt with appropriately. While it would have caused irreparable harm to the firm and our clients to terminate the employment of all of my attackers at once, we have put together a plan to transition their outstanding assignments to others at the firm as well as new recruits over the next eighteen months, and by April of 2008, the firm will be purged of everyone who had a hand in this nonsense. I look forward to that day.

It has been rewarding to receive good wishes from many of my clients during this time of shock followed by recovery. I have been unable to eat much of the fruit and baked goods that have been sent my way, but I have donated the extras to a variety of third-tier law schools. Even though their students cannot get jobs, at least they can enjoy some Harry & David pears and apples. I especially appreciated the gingerbread cookies that a group of unnamed associates at the firm sent me. Although they had all been mangled much like I was -- arms torn off, eyes gouged out, holes in the centers of their chests -- I choose to believe it was a consequence of the shipping process and not a deliberate attempt on the part of the associates to poke fun at my predicament.

None of my clients have suffered due to my incapacitation, nor has the firm's hiring season. Tech support was able to retrofit my computer system with a device that allowed me to input commands by blowing through a straw, and to interview candidates via teleconference. I am proud to say we will have the strongest class in years, although due to the limitations of the conferencing system I expect the summer associates will be on average less attractive than we as a firm aspire to have, as well as more diverse. I have assured the leadership team that I will overcompensate next year on those two dimensions. In addition, since I have been unable to travel between the office and home, I have been able to bill an additional hour per day over these past two weeks, and this has allowed us to provide health care to one lucky member of the support staff. She is thrilled, despite her pre-existing illness.

Two weeks without the ability to control my bowels have given me time to reflect on my life, and the kind of person I've become. On many levels, I'm ashamed. I didn't take this job hoping to lose my soul. I didn't take this job in the hope that I could lose touch with what really matters in life and become a petty, intolerant, and downright unpleasant middle-aged man. I didn't take this job looking for a way to ruin every other aspect of my life and be left with a comfortable salary and nice things but little fulfillment. I didn't take this job because I was looking for something to distract me so I wouldn't be forced to think about the kind of person I wanted to be and the kind of good I could do in this world. I didn't take this job so I could spend a hundred hours a week in an office, hurting more than I'm helping. No, I took this job because it was here, and it was easy to say yes.

It's in that spirit that I realize what I need to do to help the firm stay competitive in this tough market. I need to make it easier for our candidates to say yes. I need to allow them to accept their offers via e-mail, text message, and AOL Instant Messenger. In fact, I need to go a step further than that. For every candidate we offer a position, I hope, within my lifetime, to be able to offer a system where they receive an electronic device with one button at the center, and that by pushing that button, any time of day, we will be alerted that they accept our offer to join the firm and we can immediately go to their homes and remove all evidence that there is anything else in their lives besides us. This is my goal, and I think we can reach it. I think the technology is close. I hope to see it come to fruition.

To those who brutally attacked me: I harbor no grudge. I understand you were driven to it by the oppressiveness of the corporate law environment. The fact that you were able to rise above the soul-crushing nature of the work and take real action -- that you were able to summon the desire to take matters into your own hands and do something about the way I was treating you -- means that as a firm we simply have not done enough to beat those feelings out of you. It's a lesson that we have to heed. We must work harder to kill your spirits. We must work harder to get rid of that beacon of light at the end of the tunnel that tells you things could be better, if only you maimed your direct superior. We must extinguish your flame, or this could happen again. And next time it might happen to someone less strong than I am, less resolute. It could turn someone against this firm and places like it, and we can't have that. It is critical we end your hope, before it is too late.

To those who stood by me in my time of need: I thank you, and I hope it didn't interfere with your work, because you will be held accountable for the hours missed, even if they were spent at the 72-hour vigil held outside my hospital room, praying I would come out alive. I heard those prayers, and I answered them. Because it is the partners who have the power to answer prayers, and only the partners who have that power.

Full mobility should return to me by the end of the week. In the meantime, I should get back to work. Posts will resume on a regular schedule.

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